Surging anti-Muslim sentiments, discrimination take center stage in 2023

Sat, 23 Dec 2023 9:46 GMT
2023 saw rise in anti-Muslim sentiments in Europe, US, Western anti-Muslim laws, Hindutva rise in India.
Surging anti-Muslim sentiments, discrimination take center stage in 2023

Increasing anti-Muslim sentiments in Europe and the US have brought discrimination to the forefront in 2023.

The bigotry has been supported directly or indirectly by governments that are held up as beacons of freedom and in one particular case as the “only democracy in the Middle East.”

Israel's attacks on residential areas, hospitals, schools, mosques and churches in the Gaza Strip have left the world demanding a cease-fire. The attacks have targeted the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the sacred values of Palestinians.

But human rights violations have continued in occupied Palestinian territories since Oct. 7, when the Palestinian resistance group launched a surprise attack against Israel.

More than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict with at least 8,000 children and 6,200 women dead. More than 52,600 victims have also been injured. Gaza, where thousands are still reportedly under the rubble, has witnessed the destruction of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, educational institutions and places of worship, in targeted attacks.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced Oct. 9 that Gaza would be completely besieged and electricity, food and fuel would not be allowed to enter.

In the days that followed, Israeli forces blocked humanitarian aid.

Beginning Oct. 10, Israel indiscriminately targeted residential areas, hospitals, schools, and places of worship with airstrikes.

Western countries, notably the US, have turned a blind eye or openly supported Israel's bombing of the enclave, where civilians are being killed.

Despite the attacks by forces affiliated with the Tel Aviv administration, Western countries, including the US, the UK, France, Germany, and Italy, refrained from issuing condemnatory statements against Israel's attacks.

Rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe

Danish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan burned the Quran in front of Türkiye's Stockholm Embassy on Jan.21 and its Copenhagen Embassy on Jan. 27.

Paludan continued his Quran-burning provocations in Malmo, Norrkoping and Jonkoping during the Easter holiday in April.

Iraqi-origin Salwan Momika also burned the Muslim holy book under police protection in front of the Stockholm Mosque on June 28, coinciding with the first day of the Eid al-Adha holiday.

Momika, on July 20 in front of Iraq's Stockholm Embassy and on July 31 in front of the Swedish Parliament building, trampled the Quran and the Iraqi flag under police protection. Increasing his attacks. He continued to burn the Quran in various locations in Stockholm on Aug. 25, 26, 27, and 29 under police protection.

The UN Human Rights Council said Quran-burning provocations in Europe fueled hate speech and increased discrimination. The Council also expressed that future sessions would discuss religious hate actions in more detail.

Following the announcement by Education Minister Gabriel Attal on Aug. 27 that the use of the abaya by women in schools would be prohibited, the ADM Association, which advocates for the rights of Muslims, took the ban to the Council of State.

The Council of State in France rejected the request to suspend the ban on Sept. 7. It argued that female students wore the abaya and male students wore the kamis, a traditional tunic, for religious reasons.

And Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera announced that no French woman in the French delegation would be allowed to wear a headscarf during the Paris Games.

UN Human Rights High Commissioner's spokesperson, Marta Hurtado, said in response that the ban was not justified. "The Human Rights Office generally emphasizes that no one should dictate what a woman should or should not wear," she said.

A report published in November on anti-Muslim sentiment in Germany noted that one in every two people in the country approved or used expressions that contained "anti-Muslim hatred."

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser announced that anti-Muslim sentiment had risen recently and mechanisms and advisory centers documenting it would be increased next year.

In the Netherlands, at least 10 municipalities conducted secret investigations on mosques, imams, leaders of religious organizations and influential individuals in congregations.

It was reported that the research, financed by the Dutch Security and Counterterrorism Agency through municipalities, was conducted by a private firm called NTA, Nuance door Training en Advies.

Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Karien van Gennip expressed regret about the investigation and said lessons would be learned.

Anti-Muslim sentiment across US

A Human Rights Report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in April noted that complaints about anti-Muslim sentiment, prejudice and discrimination had fallen compared to 2021, but complaints in the education sector had increased by 33%.

In June, three Democratic members of the US Congress introduced the "International Islamophobia Combat Act" against the increase in anti-Muslim incidents worldwide.

Swiss computer hackers, who seized an FBI's watchlist on June 13, leaked the information to the public. It was revealed that 1.5 million individuals, including children as young as 7, and 2,500 mosques, mostly with Arab and Muslim names, were secretly monitored by the bureau dating back 20 years.

CAIR filed a lawsuit against the government for the "FBI terrorism watchlist." The lawsuit included 29 high-ranking government officials and agencies, including ministers, as defendants, along with the FBI, the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA), including President Joe Biden's government.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, published a report on lawlessness in the Guantanamo Bay prison after her technical visit June 27.

The UN condemned the US for the torture of prisoners at the prison and recommended its closure.

On the other hand, according to the annual hate crime statistics released by the FBI on Oct. 10, violence and discrimination against Muslims in the US increased compared to the previous year.

The health sector was not spared as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US said one in five women in the country experienced mistreatment in health centers during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

The report, citing statistics, noted the rate of encountering mistreatment reached 30% for Black, Latin American-origin US citizens and biracial women, and 40% of those women reported experiencing discrimination.

Rising nationalism in India

In the Gurugram region of the Haryana state in India, Muslim-owned businesses that experienced arson, along with a mosque, as well as the killing of an imam by ultra-nationalist Hindu groups on Aug. 8, raised concerns among Muslims.

Following the attacks on minorities, the Hindutva Watch organization reported Sept. 26 that more than 250 hate incidents against Muslims were carried out in India in the first half of 2023.

The report highlighted an increasing trend in hate speech against Muslims since the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, noting that government officials have engaged in insulting and derogatory rhetoric against Muslims and Islam‘s sacred values.

Myanmar-Rakhine crisis

The Myanmar military seized power Feb. 1, 2021, following allegations of electoral fraud in the 2020 general elections and political tensions.

More than 1,900 people were killed, over 13,000 detained and an excess of 10,000 are still held in prisons as a result of the military's armed intervention against anti-coup protesters and insurgent groups.

Myanmar military courts have sentenced 114 political prisoners, including two children, to death.

Nicholas Koumjian, the head of the UN Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, said the military junta has disregarded human rights warnings from international organizations and the lives of women and children are in danger.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the spread of conflicts between the military regime and ethnic armed groups in Myanmar has led to further displacement of residents.

In Rakhine State, where Muslims are the majority, Rohingya Muslims are considered by the UN the "most persecuted people in the world" due to the military's violence and oppression against civilians. The UN describes the violence against Rohingya Muslims as ethnic cleansing or genocide.

Russia-Ukraine war

The war that began Feb. 24, 2022, between Russia and Ukraine, continues intensely, particularly in the Donetsk region.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it anticipates that 7.8 million residents will need humanitarian assistance in 2024.

According to a report by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in December concerning violations in Ukraine, more than 560 children and 10,000 people have died since the beginning of the war, and over 14 million civilians have become refugees.

The Special Representative for Combating Human Trafficking of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) noted that Ukrainian women migrating to Europe fell into the trap of prostitution gangs.

The women were initially employed in nightclubs and bars but were later coerced into prostitution.

While the UN and international organizations have welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war to Europe, they pointed out that policies for those coming from the Middle East and Africa are based on religious, linguistic and racial discrimination due to the war Russia initiated against Ukraine.


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